In the United States, strokes are the leading cause of death and long term disability, resulting in over 130,000 deaths, and costing more than $40 billion each year. There are nearly 800,000 strokes each year in the U.S., of which over 600,000 are first time strokes. Risk factors for strokes vary widely and strokes can occur in people of all ages, races, and genders.  It is of the utmost importance to know the signs and symptoms of a stroke in order to best treat and prevent long term damage when one occurs.

What is a stroke? A stroke (i.e. “brain attack” or cerebrovascular attack) occurs when there is a severe lack of oxygen to part of the brain resulting in damage and death to the affected brain cells. The lack of oxygen is usually the result of a small blood clot blocking blood flow to a certain portion of the brain, known as ischemic strokes, and they account for over 85% of all strokes. Similarly, strokes can also be caused by small blood vessels in the brain rupturing or breaking, thus not allowing parts of the brain to receive the oxygen they need. This second type of stroke in called a hemorrhagic stroke and accounts for roughly 10% of strokes. The remainders of strokes are much less common but also occur as a result of lack of oxygen to a portion or all of the brain.

[quote_box author=”William Zagorski” profession=”Executive Director”]If you see any of these signs or symptoms, immediate action is required. Think FAST and call 911.[/quote_box]

Little is known on means to prevent strokes, but there are certain risk factors that can be monitored, changed, or controlled to help reduce the risk of a stroke occurring. Some of the major controllable risk factors include

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Poor nutrition, including high fat and high cholesterol diets
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Chronic or excessive alcohol use
  • Unregulated high blood pressure

When a stroke occurs, there are usually immediate physical manifestations that can be identified and monitored in order to better treat the stroke, and allow for more or faster recovery.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg—especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Also, women often report additional unique symptoms that may not be seen as regularly in men.

  • sudden face and limb pain
  • sudden hiccups
  • sudden nausea
  • sudden general weakness
  • sudden chest pain
  • sudden shortness of breath
  • sudden palpitations

If you see any of these signs or symptoms, immediate action is required. It is known that individuals who arrive at a hospital within the first 3 hours of a stroke are significantly more likely to recover fully, or have less severe long term disabilities than others. What should you do? Think FAST and call 911.

F – Face: Ask the person to smile. If one side of the face droops, a stroke may be likely.

A – Arms: Ask the person to raise both of their arms in front of them. If one arm falls or drifts down, a stroke may be likely

S – Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase after you. If they have difficulties speaking or recalling the correct words, a stroke may be likely.

T – Time: Note the exact time the symptoms first appear and immediately call 911.

Following these simple steps may make the difference between full or partial recovery, and long term severe disability. For more than 32 years Centennial Adultcare Center has helped care for stroke survivors and is pleased to continue to serve the middle Tennessee community today. Call us at (615) 383-3399 or contact us today to see how we can assist you and your loved one.